By Jay Bushinsky
Israeli archaeologists, screening tons of rubble scooped out of this ancient
city's sacred Temple Mount, have discovered hundreds of artifacts and coins, as
well as jewelry, some with biblical links dating back more than three
Most of the stones and earth originally were taken to an organic garbage dump in nearby
This ambitious archaeological project, known as the Temple Mount Antiquities Operation, was started in November 2004, when Muslims excavated the sector north of
The Waqf, or Muslim officials who administer the site -- known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary -- helped the Israelis arrange the transfer.
Among the unusual finds extracted by
"It bears the name Gedalyahu Ben Immer Ha-Cohen, suggesting that the owner may have been a brother of Pashur Ben Immer, described in the Bible [Jeremiah 20:1] as a priest and temple official," Mr. Barkai said.
That verse says: "Pashur, the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the House of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things."
The team's discoveries span 10,000 years "and belong to all the historical periods that transpired in
One of the finds is a stone weight equivalent to four shekels (an ancient Hebrew measure, about 2 ounces), marked with words written in the ancient Hebrew alphabet.
The site is not considered an archaeological dig. The workers use a technique called "wet sifting," similar to the way prospectors pan for gold.
Mr. Barkai's team examines every particle, using large wire filters to rinse each one with cold water while looking for valuable objects.
Some finds reflect the
Presumably belonging to the 10th Legion, Mr. Barkai said, "it was launched from catapults exclusive to the
"There also are beautiful objects that belong to the Crusader period," Mr. Barkai said, noting the many Byzantine coins, which testify to large attendance at the
Many of the more-recent coins date from the 17th century, and the research team even found a gold coin issued by the French Empire under Napoleon III.
A bronze pendant several hundred years old depicts the Holy Grail.
The team works in a large plastic tent pitched on a spur of the
Because of the quantity, time and patience required to rinse the objects, this archaeological project likely will take several years to complete.